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Toray Verifies High Durability of All-Carbon CO2 Separation Membrane that Can Help Cut Natural Gas Production Emissions

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Jan. 31, 2023

Toray Industries, Inc.

Tokyo, Japan, January 31, 2023 – Toray Industries, Inc., announced today that it has verified the high durability of its all-carbon carbon dioxide (CO2) separation membrane (see Glossary note 1) in harsh environments. These are notably under high partial CO2 pressures and in the presence of impurities in natural gas production refining processes.

This membrane should lower natural gas manufacturing costs by streamlining CO2 separation. Toray will accelerate prototype production and demonstrations for commercial deployment.

Clean energy resources are vital to cut CO2 emissions and achieve a sustainable economy. Natural gas offers very low emissions from its calorific value. That said, prioritizing the development of gas fields with low CO2 concentrations has resulted in recent years in the development of many fields with high concentrations. This has necessitated more efficient CO2 separation and recovery in natural gas refining.

The common separation technique of amine absorption consumes more energy with higher carbon dioxide concentrations. Membrane separation has accordingly attracted attention because it is more energy-efficient. The issue here is that the polymer membranes that membrane separation setups currently employ cannot maintain their micropore shapes. Performance in natural gas refining degrades from CO2, toluene, and other impurities associated with this process that cause clogging or plasticization. Massive pretreatment facilities are accordingly vital to maintain performance, driving up operating costs.

In an advance on an all-carbon CO2 separation membrane that it created in 2021, Toray innovated a type that retains its micropore shape and delivers excellent CO2 separation even in harsh natural gas refining processes by applying precision structure control technologies and optimizing carbonization conditions.

The company simulated natural gas refining by conducting high-pressure CO2 separation tests of this membrane with such impurities as water vapor and an aromatic hydrocarbon called toluene. It confirmed that the membrane delivers consistently robust and efficiently CO2 separation.

This advance should greatly simplify the pretreatment facilities that regular polymer membranes need to prevent plasticization and strength reductions from impurities. It could also slash operating costs.

Reusing CO2 separated by this membrane could help cut emissions from natural gas production. Toray looks for the membrane to serve extensively in carbon capture and storage (see Glossary note 2) and utilization (see Glossary note 3) processes. 

Toray is creating a prototype and evaluation framework for the membrane. It plans to provide samples for gas demonstrations during the fiscal year ending March 2024. The company will step up prototyping and demonstration tests for commercialization in collaboration with diverse partners, including natural gas refining-related engineering manufacturers.

In line with its corporate philosophy of contributing to social progress by delivering new value, Toray will keep striving to resolve environmental, resources, and energy issues, and pursue R&D help create a carbon-neutral, sustainable economy.

1.   An all-carbon CO2 separation membrane owe its high performance to a dual layer structure, comprising a thin carbon film separation layer on the surface of a hollow-fiber porous carbon-fiber support. Making the support as thin as possible reduces the membrane module’s weight and size. Below is a link to a reference press release issued on April 15, 2021. 
Toray Innovates CO2 Separation Membrane Incorporating Porous Carbon Fiber
2.   Carbon capture and storage separates CO2 from other emissions at power, chemical, and other plants, collecting it and storing it or injecting deep underground.
3.   Carbon capture and utilization uses separated and stored CO2. Converting hydrogen from renewable energy into valuable resources is under consideration as a social initiative.